In the mobile game world, there is a mythical creature known as the “whale”. A gaming whale is a player that is inclined to spend more money on in-app purchases than average. If you already knew that, then you also know that whales are the must-have market for the next top mobile games to monetize.
Yet many games are seeking whales the wrong way –
Game developers often look to acquire specific (male, young) audiences because old-school knowledge says that’s where the money is. This practice creates a self-fulfilling cycle: developers pursue that demographic with in-app purchases, receive money primarily from them, and then continue to target them with the belief that they simply pay more money.
Some genders are more engaged by certain types of games to be sure, but that’s because those genres of games are historically designed to appeal to that group for in-app purchases (see above image). Flurry has good data on how those numbers stack up. Using these findings as gospel for your content only puts a limit on what your game is capable of:
Gamers grab in-app purchases because they enjoy the full customer experience a game offers (and not just because they are in a special demographic). According to Shullman Research Center 59% of casual mobile gamers earn at least $75,000 (page 3) a year. That’s more than enough for anyone to spend on your in-app purchases if you make them feel at home.
That’s the secret philosophy for top mobile games: every mobile gamer is a potential whale. The mobile gaming arena has changed – now that women are more active in gaming than ever and gamers are getting older globally, there’s little use trying to figure out what kind of person spends big. Top mobile games don’t exert much effort acquiring the “whale market”. They simply turn their existing users into whales.
Community is Monetization Now
Building a healthy community around your customers is a guaranteed way for your mobile game to increase in-app purchases. In an interview with Nir, Glu Mobile’s CEO Niccolo De Masi said, “Glu as a company doesn’t spend as much money as competitors [on user acquisition] … We spend 15% whereas our competitors spend 40%.”
What Glu does spend money on is social media virality, giving away content, and integrating mobile customer service tools. All basically ways to keep their current users smiling. Mobile whales are simply satisfied customers.
Acquisition is definitely necessary to get started, but is nowhere near the endgame of mobile game success. 80% of apps are deleted after one use because all the effort is being spent getting people in the door, and none of it is being spent convincing them to stay. Focusing your strategy on customer support, engagement, and retention is worth far more in the long run than a tantalizing opener. Forming a lasting community of happy users is the true secret for turning minnows into whales.
This data from the video game research firm EEDAR shows that the top 5% of people who spend more on in-app purchases are also more likely to share and give app store ratings. Yet look closely at what the graph is saying for the rest: more than half of the 95% non-spenders are still willing to talk about your app. A third of those non-spenders endorse leaving an app store rating. High ratings and visibility from customers are how games get noticed, downloaded, and enjoyed.
Non-spenders will peruse in-app purchases just by being there long enough. The more a user stays within your game’s community, the more likely they are to eventually spend money and spread the word. Community makes sharing, and cultivating whales, inevitable. Don’t look for whales. Make them.